Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Number of employees
|11-50 (As of 1 July 2012[update])|
Astrobotic Technology is an American privately held company that is developing space robotics technology for lunar and planetary missions. It was founded in 2008 by Carnegie Mellon professor Red Whittaker and his associates, with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize. The company is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The first launch of one of its spacecraft, the Peregrine lunar lander, is expected to take place in 2020 on an Atlas V rocket.
The team stated an ambitious goal from the start in 2008: to be the first commercial operation to land their Red Rover on the Moon, using their Artemis Lander. The company's first running prototype of Red Rover was completed the same year, and the concept lander was renamed Griffin.
On 28 July 2008, NASA awarded Astrobotic funding for a concept study on "regolith moving methods", and the next year, Astrobotic began to receive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding from NASA totaling over $795,000 to investigate prospecting for lunar resources, which eventually led to a concept called Polar Excavator.
On 15 October 2010, NASA awarded a contract to Astrobotic for Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) firm-fixed price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts with a total value up to $30.1 million over a period of up to five years, and in December, NASA's $500,000 ILDD project for further Lunar Demonstrations Data was awarded to Astrobotic.
Astrobotic's "Technologies Enabling Exploration of Skylights, Lava Tubes, and Caves", was a Phase I selection for NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC). In April 2011, Astrobotic received a $599,000 two-year contract to develop a scalable gravity offload device for testing rover mobility in simulated lunar gravity under NASA's Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR).
In May 2012, David Gump left the position of President of Astrobotic and John Thornton took the reins.
On April 30, 2014, NASA announced that Astrobotic Technologies was one of the three companies selected for the Lunar CATALYST initiative. NASA was negotiating a 3-year no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) where the Griffin lander may be involved. The CATALYST agreement was extended in October 2017 for 2 years.
On June 2, 2016, Astrobotic Technology announced a new design of its Griffin concept lander and named it Peregrine. Airbus Defence and Space signed a memorandum of understanding to provide engineering support for Astrobotic as it refines the lander's design. In December 2016 Astrobotic slipped their estimated launch date to 2019 and separated from the Google Lunar X Prize.
On November 29, 2018 Astrobotic was made eligible to bid on NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services to deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon. Astrobotic's successful bid entailed a $79.5 million contract to deliver payloads to Lacus Mortis. Astrobotic set an initial target of fourteen payloads starting in July 2021.
Commercial payload pricing
As of 2018, payload delivery to lunar orbit is $300,000 / kg; delivery to the lunar surface is $1,200,000 / kg; and $2,000,000 per kilogram ($910,000/lb) for deploying a rover.
Icebreaker to the north pole
In April 2011, Astrobotic contracted with SpaceX for a Falcon 9 launch of a lunar north pole mission for as early as December 2013. The mission was intended to launch the Griffin lander and deliver "a small rover and up to about 240 pounds (110 kg) of payload to the surface of the Moon". The launch date slipped to 2015, and it was first named Polar Excavator, and then Icebreaker, that would target the lunar north pole. This expedition's rover was to be Polaris. A model of the Polaris rover was unveiled in October 2012, and the company indicated that they were still under contract to SpaceX for a Falcon 9 mission. The launch date further slipped to 2016, and Astrobotic contracted with two other GLXP teams including Team Hakuto and Team AngelicvM to share the launch expenses. The agreement was to launch the rovers of all teams on a single SpaceX Falcon 9 which would then use the Astrobotic Griffin lander. After landing on the lunar surface, all teams would have competed against each other to achieve the specific GLXP objectives and earn the various prices. The Griffin lander was never built, and Icebreaker mission was not launched.
In July 2017, Astrobotic announced an agreement had been reached with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to launch their Peregrine lander aboard an Atlas V. This announcement seemingly indicates Astrobotic canceled plans to launch on a Falcon 9. The Mission 1 is planned to be launched in June 2021.
By May 2019, its first lunar lander mission, simply called Mission 1 (M1) had 14 commercial payloads including small rovers from Hakuto, Team AngelicvM, the Mexican Space Agency, and a larger rover from the Carnegie Mellon University named Andy that has a mass of 33 kg (73 lb) and is 103 cm tall. One of the payloads aboard the lander is a library, in micro print on nickel, which will include Wikipedia contents and Long Now Foundation's Rosetta Project.
On November 29, 2018 Astrobotic was made eligible to bid on NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services to deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon, and in May 2019, it was awarded its first lander contract for NASA. Therefore, in addition of the 14 commercial payloads, the lander will carry 14 NASA-sponsored payloads, for a total of 24.
Peregrine will carry a maximum payload mass of 90 kg (200 lb) during Mission 1, and it is planned to land on Lacus Mortis, a relatively flat plateau at 44°N 25°E, and operate for about 8 days. The payload mass for the future M2 mission is capped at175 kg (386 lb), and the M3 and later missions would carry the full payload capacity of 265 kg (584 lb).
|Designer||Astrobotic Technologies and Airbus Defence and Space|
|Country of origin||US|
|Applications||Commercial lunar transport|
|Spacecraft type||Cruise, lunar orbit and surface operations|
|Design life||One lunar day|
|Launch mass||Mission 1: 1,283 kg (2,829 lb) |
|Payload capacity||up to 265 kg (584 lb)|
|Dimensions||Width: 2.5 m; Height: 1.9 m|
|Power||Max: 30 W|
The Peregrine lander was announced in 2016.  It inherits designs from their previous concept lander called Griffin, which was larger but with the same payload capacity.  Astrobotic had contracted Airbus Defence and Space to provide additional engineering support as they refine the lander's design.
Peregrine's bus structure is mainly manufactured out of aluminum alloy, and it is reconfigurable for specific missions. Its propulsion system features a cluster of five ISE-100 thrusters, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne that are based on the Divert and Attitude Control System thrusters it developed for missile defense applications. Each thruster produces 667 N thrust. This propulsion system would propel the trans-lunar injection, trajectory corrections, lunar orbit insertion, and powered descent. The propulsion system is capable of delivering an orbiter to the Moon and then performing a powered soft landing. The lander would carry up to 450 kg (990 lb) of bi-propellant mass in four tanks; its composition is MON-25/MMH, a hypergolic bi-propellant. For attitude control (orientation), the spacecraft uses twelve thrusters (45 N each) also powered by MON-25/MMH.
The spacecraft's avionics systems incorporate guidance and navigation to the Moon, and a Doppler LiDAR to assist the automated landing on four legs. Its landing ellipse is 24 km × 6 km. Peregrine is about 2.5 m wide and 1.9 m tall, and it would be able to deliver up to 265 kg (584 lb) of payload to the surface of the Moon.
Its electrical systems will be powered by a lithium-ion battery that is recharged by a solar panel made of GaInP/GaAs/Ge. Radiators and thermal insulators are used to dispose excess heat, but the lander does not carry heaters, so the first few Peregrine landers are not expected to survive the lunar night, which lasts 14 Earth days. Future missions could be adapted to do so.
For communications to Earth, the lander uses different frequencies within the X band range for uplink as well as downlink. Following landing, a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi modem enables wireless communication between the lander and deployed rovers on the lunar surface.
CubeRover is a class of planetary rovers with a standardized format meant to accelerate the pace of space exploration. The idea is equivalent to that of the successful CubeSat format, with a standardized architecture to assemble new units that will be all compatible, modular, and inexpensive. The rover class concept is being developed by Astrobotic Technology in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, and it is partly funded by NASA awards. The Principal Investigator of the program is Andrew Horchler. The first CubeRover is planned to be deployed on the Moon in 2020 on board Astrobotic's Peregrine lander. It is called Andy, has a mass of 33 kg (73 lb) and is 103 cm tall.
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Astrobotic: Headed by William 'Red' Whittaker of Carnegie Mellon University, the team expects their 'Artemis Lander' and 'Red Rover' spacecraft to touch down first on the moon.
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Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company, has signed a launch services contract with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for a Falcon 9 rocket to deliver a lander, small rover and up to about 240 lb. of payload to the surface of the Moon
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planned to launch in late 2014 or early 2015
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- Official website